The stories behind the stories

Crimson Dynamo #1

“After all these years, I guess I’m still hiding things…” — Gennady Gavrilov

“Old Toys”

Moscow teenager Gennady Gavrilov’s humdrum life takes an unexpected turn when he discovers a high-tech helmet in a university warehouse. But this “home entertainment center in a helmet” activates a suit of robotic armor in a Siberian warehouse, to violent result…
Published by Marvel • September 3, 2003
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Steve Ellis

Lettered by Thom Zahler

Colored by Thomas Mason

Cover by Steve Ellis

Packaged by Marc Patten

Edited by Stephanie Moore

In late 2002, Marvel solicited several dozen people to pitch for its new Epic line, in advance of the publisher making the new-talent division open to the general public. One of those invited, I wrote the first issue of Crimson Dynamo, based on an old Iron Man villain, the last week of 2002. After receiving the go-ahead from my publishers at Krause Publications, I submitted the pitch — and several weeks later the title was accepted for publication.

Under the Epic banner, writers were expected to form their own creative teams and manage the production of issues. Given my time constraints, I brought in Marc Patten of Destination Entertainment to manage the title on my behalf. Marc found the creative team, which included Steve Ellis, artist on Silencers and a former Russian foreign exchange student; colorist Thomas Mason; and letterer Thom Zahler.

The first script went through several revisions in the late winter, and it began to appear that Crimson Dynamo would be one of the first batch of Epic titles out of the gate (following Trouble, by the well-established fan favorite Mark Millar). By April 2003, Crimson Dynamo was announced for summer release.

The title was commercially positioned as showcasing a revival of Marvel’s Cold War menace, and there was a lot of material to choose from on that score. There were six Crimson Dynamos before the one appearing in this series, and I’ve only met one fan who could name them all!

This first issue is the longest of any, at 23 pages. A 23rd page, the splash page with the standing armor, was added last to inject a little more graphic zest.

Well before the publication of this first issue, I got the assignment to write Iron Man, the “parent” title of Crimson Dynamo — and suggested to Marvel taking a break from Dynamo after the six-issue storyline, perhaps bringing the character back elsewhere one day. That’s what we did — and though the Epic line later was curtailed, the story ongoing in Crimson Dynamo was allowed to complete. I’m certainly glad, of course. It was a fascinating and learning experience that I’m honored to have been a part of!

“This thing isn’t a helmet at all. It’s a home entertainment center!” — Gennady Gavrilov

There really is a news photo somewhere out there of an impoverished Russian mother selling her child’s toys. I remembered seeing it years ago, and it became the key to Gennady Gavrilov’s character. As much sympathy as I had for the mother in that photograph, I wondered what the kid’s life must be like — and that idea led me to craft Gennady as he appeared.

That action figure under young Gennady’s bed is actually the Crimson Dynamo action figure from Toy Biz.

People ask where the “crimson” is in Crimson Dynamo, as the armor in the series hadn’t been painted yet. It seemed clear to us that what was Crimson was the Dynamo, the glowing star in the armor’s chest.

Some have wondered how the helmet got so many TV channels. It has to do with the Dynamo Sputnik satellite described in #5. It was launched as a “black” satellite, providing communications for the original Mark 1 armor. After the program ended, Moscow reassigned several of its channels to commercial satellite TV services, not knowing that there was yet another armor out there which could dial into the satellite — with access to everything that came from it. That’s how a device built by Anton Vanko in the 1980s was able to receive broadcasts on channels that didn’t exist then.

The gold watch of Devereaux is the only thing he has left from his father and grandfather, whom we learn about in #6.

Steve Ellis added a number of items of Russian flavor to the background, like the cartoon character on the poster in Gennady’s room.

We did a lot of Russian translations for the series, but one problem we had to solve early on was the name. “Dynamo” is certainly a big word in Russian, but the word “crimson” doesn’t translate as simply as we would have liked. The word for “crimson” is roughly the same word for “raspberry,” which doesn’t have much punch to it as the name of a big supervillain. We figured that the real name was “krasnii dinamo,” or “red dynamo,” and that Tony Stark simply misheard it back in that original Stan Lee story. We can well understand why Lee didn’t just call him the Red Dynamo, as that sounds like a floor cleaner…